VARs are worried they will lose Novell business to Microsoft resellers after the vendor decided to discontinue sales of its NetWare 3.2 operating system (OS) from 31 October.
The move came just a few days before Novell's annual BrainShare conference.
Carol Hamblin, NetWare product manager at Novell, believes NetWare 3.2 - which was introduced in August 1989 and runs more than 850,000 servers - has reached the end of its life cycle.
The developer said it will continue to provide support to NetWare 3.2 customers until January 2002, but on a limited basis.
Separately, Microsoft said it will remove corporate networking from the Millennium edition of its Windows 98 OS.
Mohammed Zabir, software production specialist at Novell reseller Specialist Computer Centre, disagreed with Novell's withdrawal. "It will definitely have an effect on the low end of the market," he said.
"Such measures will almost certainly force people to upgrade and they will lose customers to Windows 2000 Advanced Server. It is already happening."
However, Zabir was less concerned about Microsoft's move. "Users must be able to interact across different platforms, but people are choosing Microsoft Windows 2000 for business now anyway. Novell's decision will have more impact. Perhaps they are purposely trying to boost [Windows 2000] sales," he joked.
Hamblin said: "The company is focusing its efforts on Novell Directory Services, eDirectory, and its strategy to provide customers with ebusiness solutions. Phasing out non directory-based NetWare 3.2 is a part of this plan."
Through its channel partners, Novell is offering promotions to entice users to NetWare 5.1, including discount upgrade prices starting from $695 (£438) - the normal price is $1,295 - for customers with one server and 50 or fewer users.
Bill Wall, Novell's director of global channel marketing, also said the vendor embarked on a 160-city tour in February to "arm the channel" and train 3,500 channel system engineers on NetWare 5.1 in preparation for the transition.
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